Jordan Kelly: For the Love of Dance

Meet Jordan Kelly. He’s pretty big on the Canberra theatre scene. He’s a performer, choreographer, and a dance teacher. COVID-19 has put much of that on pause, but he’s still found a way to bring dance to the people.

First published on HerCanberra, 15 April 20

Jordan Kelly has been performing and choreographing theatre shows continuously since 1999. It’s amateur theatre so he doesn’t get paid—he doesn’t even try for lead roles anymore— and he gets just as much joy from choreographing and watching the cast shine on stage as he does from performing himself. The reason he keeps going back is because, well, he just loves it.

It started when Jordan was just a little kid and landed his first role while in Year 7, playing a ‘lost boy’ in Peter Pan at the school Rock Eisteddfod. From there, he was hooked.

“Dance was my first love, even from when I was a little child,” he explains. “I remember looking up to all the Year 12s who were all dancers and just idolising them”.

Jordan carried his passion into adulthood and—like anyone who has mastered an art will attest—it’s a been a continuous journey of exploration.

In 2019, Jordan took on a role in The Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre (The Q)’s Kinky Boots to try something new and different.

“I appreciate the art of drag but it was never something that’s interested me [before],” says Jordan. “So I thought—I’ll do it in a show, try it out and then I can say I’ve done it!”

“I got to put on this other whole new character. Obviously drag queens are a big thing, and they’re a lot of hard work—it’s just all the make-up. It takes so much time—it really does.”

“And then the hardest part is dancing in heels. It took me so long to get used to dancing in heels. I don’t know how you ladies do it—drag gueens take a lot of effort… it’s not as easy as people think.”

When Jordan’s not performing in shows, he’s choreographing them.

“It starts with the music. I put the music on, and things go through my head, and then I trial a few things. I swap and change so many times; there could be one song and I’ll do twenty pages of choreography. Once I feel like it feels right for that piece, and I’m happy with it—then I’ll go and teach it to the cast.”

For Jordan, theatre and choreography represent two sides of the same coin.

“With performing, you get that high from being on stage and just letting loose, but then on the other hand, sometimes I love to choreograph because it’s my work on that stage. Getting that satisfaction from them achieving something that you’ve given them, and watching them shine on stage…it’s a good feeling”.

Jordan also choreographed The Full Monty at The Q last year and still remembers the nerves of opening night.

“Oh, all the jitters. Obviously you’re not on stage, so whatever happens—you’re leaving it up to them. But you’re still nervous…because they’re nervous and you’re nervous for them”

“You wonder if people are going to like it, and if you’ve done the right thing, and you just second guess all your work. But as soon as they’re on stage and their faces are lit up, and the audience is clapping for them—you know it was all worth it, and that it’s all going to be ok.”

“In the end, you’re crying because you’re so proud of them. It always falls into place”.

Jordan says that it is a tough industry to be in professionally, but no so much for him.

“I just do it for fun now. I don’t really try and get lead roles. There is competition out there for people who are auditioning for shows and who are after lead roles and obviously not everyone can get them,” says Jordan, adding that Canberra’s theatre scene is larger than people might think.

“We’re lucky that we’ve got lots of different companies, and lots of different shows in Canberra. If [performers] miss out on one—they can try for a different show”.

But now Canberra’s shows have all been put on hold because of COVID-19, which Jordan says has been hard for Jordan’s community.

“You watch all your friends who are in the arts, and them losing their jobs. It’s not just in theatre, but musicians and dance teachers and even fitness instructors. Everyone’s lost their jobs and they can’t do what they love. We’ve just got to stick together I guess, and do what we can within these times”.

However, Jordan is optimistic that the industry will bounce back.

“It’s a tough one really…I think people will be eager to get back into it, but whether they’re cautious or not, is another story. I think it might take a bit of time, but I think it will bounce back bigger than ever because people won’t take it for granted as much.”

Image supplied

On teaching dance, Jordan is enthusiastic—he always knew where he wanted to end up.

“I always went through school not knowing what I wanted to do. I just knew that I loved dancing,” he says.

“Most of the time I was at school for the drama and the dancing.  So obviously it was inevitable, but it’s good because it led me to fitness.”

Jordan’s Dad—a former aerobics and disco champion—introduced him to Les Mills training. Jordan started teaching their dance programs which he loves because he’s not in character and he can be himself.

“Obviously, I can’t do that at the moment. But I have been doing live ones through the Club Lime Facebook page. I’m glad that I’m still able to do something, because it’s not good at this time. And it’s nice that we can still give to the people who want to get out there and dance—even if it is in their lounge room”.

You can join Jordan’s classes live Tuesday and Thursday nights. I’ve been joining in his classes and watching them back for practice. Think hip hop, tonnes of swag and a LOT of fun.

You’ll notice that he sometimes talks to the camera, and I must admit that I sometimes find myself talking back.